I don't put a lot of thought into naming things, mainly because I'm not making my own personal world or anything like that. It's not personal. I do, however, put a lot of ear into names...they have to sound right. If I say it out loud and it sounds dumb then I change a letter here n there and see what it sounds like. I like my random places to have a musical flow to them. When I'm in a creative mood I try to evoke the other senses and when I'm feeling whimsical I like to tickle a rib. So I guess that you could say I like for things to sounds right and I rely on my current emotional state to evoke the names. The metanames (countries, continents, worlds) just pop into my head after I have done all of the other naming...that way it sort of grows or evolves and feels more natural. Oftentimes I'll say to myself that I want this place to sound Russian or Persian or whatever so I make up stuff that sounds that way.
When I do plan things out down to the tiniest detail I know exactly what the people dress like and think like, what they manufacture, what they import/export, what their religion is like, etc. so this makes things easier. For me, when I get stuck or feel non-creative then I'll hit a generator but I never take a word straight from the generator because of the above criteria. Gleitneklsd might come out of a generator but I play with it until I get something like Gleiten or Glettenskold, or if they be hobbits then it's something like Gibbenbotty, orcs would be Nightskull, English would be Glencurry. For me, it's all in the sound.
Well in my case i name the places of my world "Divero" mostly straight forward, there is a continent with the shape of a dragon so it is called Nogardrios wich is something like "Im a Dragon" in spanish and spelled backwards. There is a continent which has the shape of a dagger and is called Agad, again dagger in spanish and spelled backwards. XD
When the names dont like me i just add some "t", "r"; "th", so they sound a little more mysterious.
For natural features, towns and the like i just take the logical approach, if its in a pine forest its called evergreen and the like.
Of course, many cultures have their own languages so the places still have names like that but in their native language, or with the names of their heroes or gods.
I also do a lot of alternate spellings, letter substitution, and reversing the spelling of various words.
Our home-brew world doesn't have a name (if it does, its called Alder because my co-creator had the idea of setting it on an Alder-disk). But we did have the idea that there would be at least four continents with the campaign taking place in the central continent.
Because we wanted an Arabic flavor to the world, I ended up calling it ana-Toht which I found in an Egyptian Phrase book and means "I'm lost." It seemed appropriate.
As I progress with adding names, I usually keep tons of bookmarks and reference materials related to the languages that I'm interested in using (in this case, Arabic, Persian, and various Berber languages) and I pick phrases that seem appropriate. From time to time, I'll add puns (Wadi al-Baghendi refers to LOTR; al-Waïz-izi, a ruin which is not "always easy" to get through). And, after reading too much and having my eyelids glaze over, I'll also start making stuff up that roughly fits in with what I'm doing.
Interesting set of perspectives.
I'm thinking now, there's a corallary question: "does it matter what you call your world".
I know Tolkien called his world "Arda" or "Middle-earth". C.S. Lewis called his Narnia (but that is more correctly a nation name, not a world name). A few others have such names. But I'm thinking of some contemporary fantasy novels... where the world is essentially nameless. Robert Jordan's world is called "Randland" because the fans had nothing else to call it, and Jordan gives the world no name. I recently read the first Song of Fire & Ice book, and AFAIK, while the continent the story takes place on is called "Westeros", the world itself has no name.
That being said, we fantasy mappers like to name things.
So... here were the competing names for my own world: previously I called it "Aterra"... which is just latin "Terra" with an "a" thrown on the front to make it "not latin". More recently I've been calling it "The Skein", a short form of "The Skein of the Seven" which, as I mention above, is a culturally-specific name for the world, but it reflects the culture in which the story I'm... ahem... "writing"... is initially set.
I like weird naming as long as it is reinforced often enough so that I don't forget it :) The Skein seems fine to me and immediately sets a mood for the culture.
That's a comforting sentiment. Thanks.
Originally Posted by Ascension
While sometimes I really think about a name. My current Japanese setting is actually Japanese a word that describes the setting: Kaidan = Ghost Story.
Often short stories or poetry written long ago by me, pops up in memory and the place names I invented them seem appropriate to a world I map now.
Darkovia, was one of those names, which is my vampire town in the CWBP, as well as the nearby khanate capital of Calishem. That name is a derivative of Kalim Shan which I always thought sounded Chinese, and I gave it a more arabic sound with Calishem.
Another fictional place name from the past, that I may reuse some day is the Duchy of Dernallion, a rather French-English sound to it.
I try to fit the name with the history and the language, but often just pops into my head - so I can't completely describe the methodology of my naming conventions, but that's some clues.
Most of my naming conventions are simple. I take the focus of the map/TL/fantasy and find what i think sounds cool to name it as. :P
I sometimes use words that actually mean anything, like Dostre'dex. Dostre means 'Vessel' and 'dex' means city. Reminder: 'dex' is only thrown at the end of a placename if the city is conquered, not when founded by Maraxxians. If that is the case, then you leave the 'dex' away, or delete the apostrophe before 'dex'.